Reports coming in from Libya say fierce fighting is underway between revolutionary fighters and regime forces in the western city of Zawiyah as residents in the oil town of Ras Lanuf face missiles and tank fire.
Press TV interviews Mohamed Abdul Malik, chairman of Libya Watch in London, regarding UN’s possible move to impose a no-fly zone on the country and how long Muammar Gaddafi’s battle against protestors can go on.
Press TV: Could implementing a no-fly zone be the breakthrough the revolutionary forces need? Do you think it will help?
Malik:The Libyan National Council has asked for a no-fly zone to be implemented by the UN and the reason is simple: when Sirte falls in the hands of revolutionaries, the road from Sirte to Tripoli is very exposed and any convoy of moving vehicles or indeed people marching towards Tripoli will be exposed to attacks from the air; therefore, the Council has asked for a no-fly zone, especially over Tripoli to prevent attacks on the people moving from the east towards Tripoli and from the west towards Tripoli as well.
Press TV:Assessing from the information that you have, do you think the Libyan regime is at the point of collapse?
Malik: As the Russians have said, Colonel Gaddafi is a political corpse, he is already dead and there is no way that he would be accepted [by the Libyan people]. The West is already moving to recognize the Libyan National Council as the one and only representative of the Libyan people. Oil ships have already started to come out of Libya under the name of the Libyan National Council. On the diplomatic level, there are already talks with the Libyan National Council, so we think Gaddafi is over except that he does not know it.
Press TV: How likely is Sirte, the hometown of Muammar Gaddafi, to be captured by the revolutionary forces?
Malik: It is very possible; however, we have disturbing information that Colonel Gaddafi has commissioned a special force from within the Libyan army loyal to him, this special force is specialized in the plantation of land mines and we think he is going to put land mines around Sirte and around the oil refinery, this means that penetrating into Sirte is going to be extremely costly in terms of human casualties. Furthermore, Colonel Gaddafi is using citizens, women and children, as human shield to protect his forces. So forces coming to Ras Lanouf, for example, revolutionary forces were met with citizens, women and children, they could not shoot at forces loyal to Colonel Gaddafi who were behind the women and children.
Press TV: The protestors in Benghazi have been calling for some kind of international support to stop the air strikes since the first days they faced fighter jets. Do you think the international response has been delayed?
Malik: Yes, definitely. There are many reasons for that. One reason is that Libya is an oil-rich country and the Europeans and the West are worried as to what will become of the oil once the Gaddafi regime is over. The other thing is that the downfall of the Gaddafi regime would leave a political vacuum and this vacuum could be filled by anyone and therefore, the West is concerned that maybe factions that are anti-West extremists, al-Qaeda will fill this vacuum.
The other point is the viciousness of the Gaddafi regime; no one would want to make an enemy of him, especially if Gaddafi is strong. Considering the fact that there is the Libyan National Council now, that is made up of moderate, reasonable people with a judge at the head of it, lawyers and people who are well-known and respected within the community, the political vacuum is filled and there is no talk of extremists and fundamentalists or whatever you have filling this vacuum. Moreover, the first oil ship has been sent to Italy; this is another message that we will continue to provide oil to the West as long as they pay for it of course. The other thing is that Colonel Gaddafi is over so there is no fear of repercussions here and now the West is responding the way we hoped it would and they are recognizing the Libyan National Council.
I would like to address a humanitarian issue here: there are a lot of people trying to flee Libya into Tunisia. Actually this has stopped now, the forces loyal to Colonel Gaddafi are stopping people from leaving Libya and they are gathering them in camps and putting them onto ships and sending them to Europe as illegal immigrants. So there is an influx of illegal immigrants that might land on the shores of Europe; a ship has already landed on Malta and another in Italy full of these workers that Gaddafi has gathered and sent to Italy by force.
Press TV: One analyst says that the world delayed a decision on the no-fly zone in order for the revolutionary forces and the Gaddafi regime to be weakened and to go on with this battle to a point that whoever that does remain will be the one that can be used as a bargaining point and to give concessions. Would you agree with that analyst?
Malik: I don’t think so because this is a revolution; there is no particular group or person that is behind it. This revolution is from the unemployed, the employed, the diplomats, the army, the police officers, the white collar, the ordinary people, the children, the teenagers, the university students and there is no way that this revolution is going to fail. We, the Libyans will end the Gaddafi regime and we will work very hard to rebuild our country. We have already begun in the east of Benghazi; people tell me that Benghazi has never been cleaner than it is now. I think there is a lot of national feeling amongst the Libyans, there is pride, self-respect and self-esteem and we are going to rebuild our country and we are going to turn our country into a democratic country.
We will not allow anyone to hijack the labor of the revolution.